Giving hard-up graduates hope
I have read the various exchanges, following the initial open letter on the Gazette website from the (clearly desperate) Legal Practice Course graduates. The issue, from my perspective, is not the minimum wage applicable to trainee solicitors, but more the lack of training contracts compared with the number of ‘qualifying’ LPC graduates.
I was one of the first students to take the ‘new’ LPC (as it was then), and the cost at the time was prohibitive but necessary. If you wanted to pursue your chosen career in the law, you paid the fee, whether you could really afford it or not. I could not, but borrowed the money. At the time, when I finally obtained a training contract (after 32 handwritten applications), the competition was tough, but not as tough as it is now.
I am now the senior partner of my own firm, and we have been in the fortunate position of being able to offer one or two training contracts every other year (with a view to keeping on our trainees once they qualify). For each post that we advertise, we receive well over 200 applications, as well as tentative applications on a weekly basis.
I do not believe that the current system is fair. In what other profession would you see thousands of young graduates every year paying thousands of pounds for a specific postgraduate qualification, with less than a one in five chance of actually getting the job they want?
The only fair way of dealing with this anomaly is to change the system: offer three-year professional apprenticeships to law graduates, at an appropriate salary and require them to undertake an equivalent LPC/PSC during the course of their apprenticeship (which the employer would pay for). On this basis, no law graduate would have to enrol for the course unless and until they had secured the relevant employment.
The only losers from this perspective would be the LPC course providers, but they would still be offering a paid-for postgraduate course based on natural demand.
Edward Foster, Fosters Law, Herne Bay